Review: A Fistful of King-Fu

Rating: 4 stars

Do you remember the seventies? Chopsocky was liberally splashed across our cinema and television screens, Karl Douglas topped the charts and Bruce Lee was the coolest guy on the planet (and every boy had ‘that’ poster on his bedroom wall). Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting, with not a panda in sight. No?

Ok, fast forward 25 years. Films like ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, ‘Hero’ and ‘House of Flying Daggers’ has given the wuxia genre a mass audience, and John Woo is directing Hollywood action movies.

1762334182bIf you have ever been a fan of the Hong Kong action movie, then this new rule set from the pen of Andrea Sfiligoi and published by Osprey Publishing; the latest in their range of wargames rules book, could be for you.

A Fistful of Kung Fu (AFKF) is a typical ‘gang’ style skirmish wargame, where each player controls between 6 and 15 models. It is designed to be used with 28mm miniatures. A game takes place on a board with a minimum size of 3’ x 3’. As well as models, players will need three six-sided dice, three measuring sticks (7.5 cm, 12cm & 18cm), some tokens (such as glass beads) and scenery. AFKF is designed to be a scenery heavy game, where players can just as easily use scenic elements as improvised weapons rather than something to hide behind.

The rules are based on the game mechanics from the ‘Song of Blades and Heroes’ line of wargames rules – the same system that was used in Osprey’s last set of rules; Of Gods and Mortals.

Each player has a gang, which is made up of a single Protagonist (a hero-type figure), a Bruiser (the hero’s sidekick) and a number of extras (red shirts optional). Gangs can be made up in any way the player wishes. There are lists for Police, Ninjas, Yakuza, Triads and Tongs, Martial Artists and Supernatural Creatures, amongst others, and a player is free to pick and choose whatever he likes, depending upon the story he wants to tell.

full33460737Each model has three main characteristics; Quality (which is used for determining is a model can complete certain actions- it’s essentially skill), Combat (which is used for combat resolution, surprise, surprise) and Traits. Traits and special skills that a model may have – it’s these traits that add much of the genre flavour to the game.

You can either select your force from the lists at the back of the book, or create your own; there is an appendix which gives you all the details on how to do this. The game uses a points system, and you build a gang of up to 400 points.

The game is scenario driven, and a scenario generator is provided in the book – all suitably cinematic. A scenario has to have a plot, (such as finding an object, capturing or rescuing someone, or maybe defeating the opposing Protagonist in a fistfight) a location (such as a hideout, a restaurant, a village or the city street) which has a number of traits, a complication (randomly determined, such as the scenario taking place at night, during a storm or even Chinese New Year) and potentially a VIP (such as a celebrity, a loved one of a Protagonist, or a Hopping Vampire)

Players roll for initiative at the start of the game, and then play continues according to the rolling of action dice.

The player who won initiative may declare he is activating a model and roll one, two or three D6; it’s the player’s choice. You compare the result of the dice roll against the model’s quality – each roll equal or better than the model’s quality gives the model and action. Multiple successes can give a model multiple actions in a turn. Your turn will end once all the models in your gang have been activated. However, whilst a single failure will simply mean that the model does nothing and play passes to another model, two or three failures will mean that a player’s turn will end prematurely and play will pass to his opponent.

Actions allow you to move, fight, shoot and perform stunts.


Combat, whether ranged or at hand-to-hand, uses an opposed dice roll mechanic. Each player rolls a single dice, adds the combat attribute of their model and a number of modifiers (both positive and negative). Scores are then compared, and a combat results table is consulted, which details the difference between the opposed scores. Several results are available, and the winner of a combat can choose which to apply: for example, a player may win a hand-to-hand combat by three points. He can choose a single, three point result, or multiple results of lower cost that add up to three.

Play continues until one side is dead, or the scenario has been completed.

AFKF is designed to be a relatively simple, light and fun game, with enough flavour that the game represents a Hong Kong action movie, and it does this rather well. I am a fan of the SoBH series of skirmish rules, which obviously helps when playing this game, but the rules are easy to learn for anyone previously unfamiliar with the mechanics, and as already said, good fun.

The publication is up to the usual high standards of an Osprey paperback title, although it becomes apparent in all the model shots that they were only supplied with four painted miniatures. These four models appear in as many different combinations as possible, but inevitably the model photos become quickly repetitive. That’s a minor quibble in an otherwise very decent set of rules.

A Fistful of Kung Fu rules and miniatures are available from North Star Figures.

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